Group of MPs including Iain Duncan Smith accuse UAE officials of issuing bogus fraud charges against wife of British businessman who has spent 15 years in Dubai jail
- Parliamentarians have accused UAE officials of using baseless legal action
- They claim the Arab state arranged for bogus charges against Heather Cornelius
- They allege the charges were revenge for her efforts to free her husband Ryan
- Mr Cornelius has been imprisoned in Dubai’s Central Prison since 2008
A group of MPs and peers, including the former leader of the opposition Iain Duncan Smith, has accused officials from the United Arab Emirates of using baseless legal action to intimidate the wife of a British man languishing in a Dubai jail.
The parliamentarians claim the Arab state arranged for bogus charges to be brought against Heather Cornelius in Bahrain as revenge for her efforts to free her husband Ryan, who has spent almost 15 years behind bars in Dubai.
‘This outrageous piece of vindictiveness against a defenceless woman on UK soil has been made possible by British government inaction,’ says the letter.
Mr Cornelius, 67, has been imprisoned in Dubai’s Central Prison since 2008 and he currently shares a cell the size of a shipping container with five other inmates.
A group of MPs and peers has accused officials from the United Arab Emirates of using baseless legal action to intimidate Heather Cornelius (left), the wife of British citizen Ryan Cornelius (right) who is languishing in a Dubai jail
The parliamentarians, including the former leader of the opposition Iain Duncan Smith (pictured in September), claim the Arab state arranged for bogus charges to be brought against Heather Cornelius in Bahrain as revenge for her efforts to free her husband
The property developer was building a 20million square-foot upmarket polo resort in the region named The Plantation when he was charged with fraud over a £372million loan he received from Dubai Islamic Bank.
His supporters, such as the London-based financier and campaigner Bill Browder, insist that the father-of-three was the victim of a staggeringly corrupt plot orchestrated at the highest level in Dubai by Mohammed al-Shaibani, a figure close to the Sheikh.
They say that al-Shaibani was motivated by his desire to seize Mr Cornelius’ lucrative property portfolio, including The Plantation.
Al-Shaibani was implicated in the brutal abductions of the Sheikh’s daughters, Princesses Shamsa and Latifa, when they attempted to flee Dubai.
Now in a letter to the Foreign Secretary, supporters including Chris Bryant MP and Liberal peer Lord Timothy Clement-Jones, accuse the Emirate of using intimidation tactics on Mrs Cornelius, 63.
The parliamentarians claim that officials have orchestrated a ‘sham trial’ against Mrs Cornelius by arranging for financial fraud charges to be brought against her in the nearby Arab state of Bahrain.
The charges are almost identical to those originally laid against her husband (and which had, tellingly, been rejected by the courts for lack of evidence, before the intervention of the Dubai authorities).
Now in a letter to the Foreign Secretary, supporters including Chris Bryant MP (left) and Liberal peer Lord Timothy Clement-Jones (right), accuse the Emirate of using intimidation tactics on Mrs Cornelius
Mr Cornelius, 67, has been imprisoned in Dubai’s Central Prison (pictured) since 2008 and he currently shares a cell the size of a shipping container with five other inmates
The parliamentarians claim that officials have orchestrated a ‘sham trial’ against Mrs Cornelius (pictured with her family) by arranging for financial fraud charges to be brought against her in the nearby Arab state of Bahrain. Pictured from left to right: Josh, Heather, Tasha and Anton
The parliamentarians’ letter alleges that at least three hearings have taken place without Mrs Cornelius or her lawyer being present.
‘This has all the characteristics of a sham trial,’ it says.
‘It is almost certainly no coincidence that it is taking place a month after Mrs Cornelius wrote to Dubai Islamic Bank’s five largest foreign investors, drawing their attention to the UN ruling and asking whether this squared with their ethical investing policies.’
The government is also criticised in the letter for failing to respond to the findings of the UN Working Group of Arbitrary Detention that Mr Cornelius should be released.
‘The findings could not be clearer: Ryan Cornelius never received a fair trial; his imprisonment was arbitrary; his continued detention amounts to torture.
‘That you have taken no action in response to findings as stark as this falls far below British public expectations of what they should be able to count on from their own government.’
The letter references the bizarre incident when the UAE Embassy in London chose to close in the middle of the day when Mrs Cornelius and her son Josh, 20 – who has not seen his father since he was six years old – arrived to deliver a personal plea for clemency to the Ruler of Dubai.
The charges against Mrs Cornelius are almost identical to those originally laid against her husband, the parliamentarians claim. Pictured: The family about a year before Ryan’s arrest
Ryan with his two sons Anton and Josh. Josh, a student, last week handed a plea of clemency to Sheikh Mohammed bin Rahid Al Maktoum at the UAE embassy in London, and revealed that he fears his father, who contracted tuberculosis in prison, will otherwise die behind bars
Josh is pictured outside the UAE embassy in London campaigning for his father
The embassy flags had been removed, A4 pieces of paper covered the building’s plaques, the doors were locked and the lights were turned off when Josh and Mrs Cornelius visited in October to deliver the plea.
Josh had no choice but to slide his letter underneath the door of the embassy as even the letterbox had been bolted shut.
Although the case has attracted plenty of media coverage, including in this newspaper, Mr Cornelius is not due to be released for another 17 years.
Lord Clement-Jones told the Mail On Sunday: ‘Effectively, a British citizen has been allowed to rot in jail. This is absolutely unacceptable.’
An FCDO spokesperson said: ‘We are supporting a British man detained in the UAE.
‘THE FCDO takes all allegations of human rights violations very seriously and raises concerns with local authorities where appropriate.
‘We are looking carefully at the findings from the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention.’
A spokesperson for the UAE Embassy in the United Kingdom said: ‘The UAE judicial system is independent and fair, and guarantees the mandatory presence of a translator at all stages, the right to seek a lawyer at all stages, the provision of a lawyer at the state’s expense if the defendant cannot appoint legal counsel, and the right to appeal.’
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